Suzanne Somers made news earlier this year when she announced that she had undergone an experimental procedure in the U.S. using her own abdominal fat stem cells to reconstruct the breast she lost to cancer. However, concerns that fat stem cell transplants might result in additional breast cancer have not been fully answered by research to date. Now a new study has reported that breast tumors can commandeer fat stem cell functions to advance tumor progression.

Latest research finds that existing tumor cells can change fat stem cells

The study referenced at the beginning of this news article was designed to determine whether tumor-derived chemical and mechanical factors can enhance fat stem cell-mediated contributions to tumor stroma (supporting tissue) formation. Through a series of experiments, the authors found that chemicals released by breast cancer cells altered the phenotype of fat stem cells in profound ways, for example by enhancing proliferation and angiogenesis.

This altered fat stem cell phenotype also resulted in enhanced tissue stiffness, a feature characteristic of breast tumors. Enhanced stiffness, in turn, led to changes in fat stem cell behavior similar to those seen as a result of tumor-derived chemical cues. The authors also performed mouse studies that further confirmed the pathological relevance of fat stem cells in tumor progression and stiffness. The authors conclude that altered fat stem cell behavior can promote tumor development and that, therefore, their use for reconstruction should be carefully considered in patients previously treated for cancer.